How do you fish a Senko-style stickbait?
Response by Brad Coovert - Dated 07/11/03

    Soft stickbaits (Senkos, Stik-O's, Tiki Sticks, etc.) are one of the hottest baits to hit the bass fishing scene in years. Just looking at one will cause you to ask "What's so special about this straight piece of plastic?" True, it has no legs, no frills, no special twists or curves&. it's just plain and straight, in a word, boring. Well, there is seldom any boredom when you fish the bait and it is easy to become hooked on these soft stickbaits just as easily as the fish do! Soft stickbaits are a very versatile group of baits. They can be fished at any depth, fast or slow and in all varieties of cover and structure. They come in sizes from thick 7" monsters down to tiny 3" morsels. The color selection is almost endless. They are also heavy for their size (due to all that salt) and cast well, even when weightless. These baits can be fished on heavy line and baitcasting tackle or finessed on light line and spinning gear. Regardless of the angler's style of fishing, there is a size and rigging method that will allow them to use these baits.

    There are many rigging methods for the soft stickbait. Rigging them Texas style with no weight and "dead sticking" them is the most popular and probably the most productive. The best type of hook is a wide gap style such as a Gamakatsu EWG or Owner Riggin' Hook. The small 3" and 4" baits usually work fine on #1-2/0 hooks, the 5" and 6" baits on 3/0-4/0 hooks and the 7" baits on 5/0 or larger. Simply rig the bait "Texposed" style and you're ready to go. Cast the lure out, let it sink on a semi-slack line to the bottom, leave it on the bottom for a few seconds, then lift the bait off the bottom and repeat. You can add a twitch here or there, vary how far off the bottom you pull it and also how long you let it sit "dead" on the bottom. Most importantly, with this technique you must watch your line like a hawk! Bites can be subtle and they usually happen on the fall, so you must be a good line watcher. Also, if you like to fish soft jerkbaits like Sluggos or Super Flukes, you can fish a weightless soft stickbait the same way.

    Another equally popular method for fishing a soft stickbait would have to be the Wacky Rig. Simply take the bait and bend it into a "U" so that both tips touch. Find the middle of the "U" and insert your hook through the bait so that the point is exposed. This will allow both tips to quiver as the stickbait falls through the water. About any hook will work for a Wacky Rig, but most seem to prefer a #2 to 1/0 straight shank worm hook, Octopus style hook or circle hook. This rig can be thrown on baitcasting or spinning tackle, but spinning tackle and light line tend to give stickbaits more action on a Wacky Rig. Cast it out and work it the same way you would the weightless Texas rig. Since the hook is exposed, this rig is usually thrown around sparse cover and does not require a hard hookset.

    As you know, almost any soft bait can be thrown on a Carolina rig or split shot rig and soft stickbaits are no exception. Though the larger baits will work, baits 5" and under usually work best on these rigs. The 3" baits can be killers on a split shot rig and will catch about anything that swims in the lake, making them fun baits to fish in ponds and streams. Rig them the same way you would if you were fishing them weightless on a Texas rig. If you are fishing open water with little or no snags, you can also nose hook them with a circle or Octopus style hook. Though they are tied to a leader and are dragged behind a sinker, these stickbaits will still dart and flutter like they do when rigged weightless. Be sure to interrupt your dragging with an occasional lift and pause to add something different to your retrieve.

    Another bottom fishing method that soft stickbaits can excel with is dropshotting. This allows the bait to be presented horizontally in deeper water while allowing it to keep its fluttering action. The 3" to 4" baits work best with this method, but the 5" and larger can be used as well. Rig the baits as you would usually rig up any plastic for dropshotting then simply cast the bait out and drag it back or lift and shake it in deeper water. Another option for the drop shot rig is to rig the bait through the center "wacky style". This gives the stickbait a whole different action as it is lifted up and down on the dropshot rig.

    Soft stickbaits also make good flipping/pitching baits. Though they are heavy, a sinker will help make sure that they penetrate the cover and a straight shank, wide gap hook will keep the bait streamlined so it will slide through limbs and weeds better. A 2/0 will work well with the 4" baits, a 4/0 with 5" baits and a 5/0 with 6" baits. Be sure to peg the sinker or use a screw in weight. The action of the soft stickbait will be quite different when fished with a weight compared to a weightless rig. It falls much faster and falls head first, but the tail will still wiggle. It will have an action similar to a tube as it spirals on the fall. Lift it up and drop it and the bait will land in a different spot. Shake it and the bait will hop around randomly and the tail will shake. Another variation of this rig for lighter cover or open water is to use an unpegged sinker and a bead. Cast out and shake back to the boat, letting the bait jump around while the bead and sinker click.

    Another interesting rig is the "flying stickbait". Rig a 5" bait Texas rigged with a small #1 or 1/0 hook in the tail. Push a nail or lead stickweight into the head. Cast it out to a dock, overhanging bush or other cover and let it fall on a slack line. The bait will fall away from you. Since it is falling on a slack line, remember to watch that line for a bite! Aside from the above rigging methods, soft stickbaits can be rigged on jigheads and Slider heads as well. Anywhere you would throw a grub, worm or tube on a jighead is a place to also try a soft stickbait on a jighead. It may be just what you need when the bite has slowed.

Other tips for soft stickbaits:

  • Soft stickbaits tear up easy, some more than others. Be sure to use some glue on your hooks to hold the bait on them or to repair a torn bait. Also, after a bait is torn in one end, cut off the nose and re-rig or turn it around and rig it in the tail. This does little to change the action and lets you get more out of the bait. When the other end is torn up, stick that hook in the middle and Wacky rig it.
  • Keep the baits straight! Bent soft stickbaits do not act correctly so be sure to store them in a way that they stay mostly straight.
  • Color the tails. You can either dye them, or with really salty soft stickbaits, you can pinch and roll the tail between your fingers. This lightens the color in the tail without changing the main color like dye would do. That tail wiggle really stands out with a dyed or rolled tail.
  • Have a good hook remover or pliers. Since many of these baits are heavily salted they are usually fished on a slack or semi slack line, a fish can easily swallow one of these baits before you know it, resulting in a deeply hooked fish.

    Just like any soft plastic, the soft stickbait is only limited by your creativity with rigging. These are only a few ways to rig them and few tips for adding to the baits overall usefulness.

A lot more information can be found here: - Though it is the Yamamoto Senko page, the information can be applied to any soft stickbait.

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